It appears that former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan wants to tell the truth. Finally. Here’s my reaction: What took you so long? I guess that another thought that comes to mind is douche bag. But I digress.
McClellan has written a book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.” Michael D. Shear, writing in The Washington Post this morning (“Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq“):
Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated “political propaganda campaign” led by President Bush and aimed at “manipulating sources of public opinion” and “downplaying the major reason for going to war.”
McClellan includes the charges in a 341-page book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a “lack of inquisitiveness,” says the White House operated in “permanent campaign” mode, and admits to having been deceived by some in the president’s inner circle about the leak of a CIA operative’s name.
OK. Ho-hum. Is there a thinking person anywhere in the world that doesn’t believe this to be true — and who hasn’t come to the same conclusion months maybe years before now? (And if you are interested in more detail about McClellan and his book, which apparently goes on sale next week, here’s an article by Mike Allen on Politico.com, “Exclusive: McClellan whacks Bush, White House.”
The question is where was McClellan when all this was taking place? When he was getting paid as the public voice/face of the administration? I expect that being White House press secretary is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Every comment counts. Small mistakes matter. You are expected to be knowledgeable on a host of very complex domestic and international issues. And in theory at least you are dealing daily with some of the best and most experienced reporters in the world. I wouldn’t want the job. And I doubt that I could do it.
Yet McClellan wanted it. Doesn’t that job come with some obligation to tell the truth? To serve the American people as well as the administration? And if so, why didn’t he say or do something when events were unfolding — not years later after the damage has been done? I don’t know. He’s not alone in this. And it’s unfair to focus on Scott McClellan given the administration’s record for openness and honestly in total.
Yet we talk about truth, ethics and professionalism a lot in public relations. Wouldn’t it be great for the public to see some examples of these principles in action in a venue where they really should matter?
Instead, here is the view that many see — and I believe it helps shape an overall negative opinion of public relations and public relations professions. It’s a clip from the Imus in the Morning program.
Anyway, I expect that McClellan will be a guest now on all the talk shows promoting the book. Since I know the talking head hosts are busy these days, here two questions I would ask the former press secretary.
If you knew all this at the time, why didn’t you say something publicly? Or resign?
Gee, then we might have had some open and honest discussions at a time when they actually mattered.